ET Wealth: How this car servicing site MeriCAR.com helps get discounts at your neighbourhood workshop

The Economic Times,

Setting up a date to get your car serviced is mostly a time-consuming and expensive affair. To alleviate the tedium, Delhi-based Rakesh Sidana came up with a one-stop web portal, MeriCAR.com, for car service and repairs in the National Capital Region.

Here’s how it works: you register on the site, fill in your car details, basic personal information, choose a booking date, a convenient time and the service required. Then you pick a dealer or workshop from the given list-it throws up results close to your residential address, which are screened on the basis of customer reviews and quality checks by the MeriCAR team-and click on send enquiry. You will get a call from the dealer/workshop in no time. The icing on the cake? The site offers discounts of 10-50% for services such as tyre replacement, batteries, car cleaning, and the like.

Sidana took a circuitous route to entrepreneurship. After graduating from the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, in 1995, he did a two-year post-graduate course in technical and computer management from the All India Management Association-Centre for Management Education in Delhi. “I was fascinated by the dotcom boom and wanted to launch an online company, but was waiting for a unique idea,” he says.

In the meanwhile, he decided to hone his technical skills. So, from 1998 to 2004, he worked in the technical department of various dotcom companies, such as Panalinks, and IndiaMart Intermesh, and for the next four years, he freelanced. “I used to bid for global Web projects and offer consultancy,” he says. In August 2008, he registered his own company, Amoeba Webware, which offered Web solutions to global firms.

However, he kept hunting for ideas, and after observing major gaps in the unorganised car servicing industry, he knew he had hit pay dirt. “When I shared the idea of MeriCAR, about 15 vehicle owners instantly showed interest in signing up,” says Sidana. So he launched MeriCAR.com, under Amoeba Webware, in February 2009. He invested Rs 20,000 from his savings, rented an office space in Gurgaon, and hired a person to coordinate with dealers. They signed up with him by paying an annual fee of Rs 5,000 and a fixed amount (they were charged Rs 50 at the start, but now shell out Rs 75) for every customer that comes through the portal. On the other hand, registered users can make free bookings and enjoy discounts.

However, Sidana ran into problems as MeriCAR, which had started with one workshop, managed to bag only four by the end of 2009. “The idea started taking shape in 2010, when we got 55 workshops,” he says. The venture notched up revenues of Rs 5 lakh in 2010-11, Rs 12 lakh the following year, and is targeting a turnover of Rs 37 lakh in 2012-13. However, it will take at least a year before MeriCAR generates profits, says Sidana. It boasts a list of 500 verified workshops across India, 180 dealer members in the NCR, and six employees in Delhi. In March 2011, Sidana introduced a loyalty program, and the firm has also created a review model, where car owners can share feedback through the firm’s website.

MeriCAR attracted a seed funding of Rs 20 lakh from MyFirstCheque, a Mumbai-based early-stage fund, in March 2011. It plans to use the amount to spread out to cities like Chandigarh, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. Plans are also afoot to tie up with garages to provide car servicing facilities after office hours. It promises to be an enjoyable ride.

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